If you’ve been paying attention to our Big Southern Wagon journey you may have noticed, amongst pictures and descriptions of the many tall and long horses, are mules. Yes, mules.
I should probably place this disclaimer, here and now, before I fling myself headlong into this little interim: people, I am not a mule person., not at all. Subsequently, I can say this post has been brought to you, in a very indirect way, by my friend Kira--a fellow Mischief Maker, and camera person for our Alabama adventures--and a mule lover extraordinaire.
But let me back up for a moment, for those rural friends now snickering at me, and those urban friends whose eyes are glazing over in disbelief. Folks, I am a horse person--or I would be, if I had the acreage. I’ll also confess right now, my preference for horses isn’t based so much on scientific reassurances or performance proof. I just like the LOOK of them….long manes and lush tails and all sorts of color schemes...if loving a horse is wrong, I don't want to be right, I tell you! Plus, at least where pulling animals are concerned, as I said, I’m a Yankee (also known, with ambivalent affection in the American South, as a damnyankee), and up North, draft horses are the animals of choice if you've got to get something moved or plowed.
Donkeys and mules...suddenly I'm surrounded by them....
But draft horses in the South? Hooboy, no siree. Historically, mules were the beasts of burden below the Mason-Dixon line. For those of you out of the loop, a mule is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse. What results is a an animal with the sturdy donkey hooves, the donkey’s better heat tolerance (perfect for the hot and humid South), and a better resistance to colic. Overall, the mule is considered a much “lower maintenance animal” than the horse, who will need more hoof care, and tends to be a flightier sort of animal.
How do I know this? Why, Miss Kira, of course. To be fair, Kira herself started as a “horse-person,” been one for most of her life, in fact. How she got mixed up with mules, I don’t quite know, but by the time I had caught up with her again, over the holidays last year, I literally met up with her while she was riding the love of her life, a long-ear named Marshall.
Now, Marshall is quite a lovely fellow, honestly, but have you ever seen a mule? You can holler up and down at me about how reliable in temperment (some would call this stubborness) a mule is or how great their feet are, but they look like…umm, large donkeys (and I wouldn't call myself a die-hard donkey person).....not a lush mane or tale amongst the lot of them. Plus, I hear these crazy stories about how particular these beasts are; they’ll plumb kick you with their back feet if any part of their schedules are off in any way. Are any of those stories true? I don’t know, but you can’t tell Kira that! Mules can do no wrong, according to most mule-o’-philes, and that's that.
So far, she’s convinced another horse friend Keely to convert over to muledom, and I fear that by the time she’s done with me, my far-fetched dreams of owning a Gypsy Cob, or even a Percheron, will be trumped by two draft mules or something…..and next thing I’ll know, I’ll be dang-gum mule skinner….or muleteer.
Which--by the way--I’d love a definitive answer: Kira swears that mule drivers are actually called Mule Skinners. I say I’ve heard them called nothing other than Muleteers. Maybe there’s a difference in names based on regional specifics.
Whatever you do, don't let the long-eared lovers get to you; I have a feeling this damnyankee will be a Mule Skinner or Muleteer, one way or the other!